Colombia: judicial workers strike after judge’s murder

Over 41,000 Colombian judicial workers demonstrated at the Paloquemao Judicial Complex in downtown Bogotá on March 25 to protest the murders of judicial officers. The protest was part of a one-day national strike that the National Association of Employees of the Judicial Branch (Asonal Judicial) had called after the murder of Judge Gloria Constanza Gaona. The judged was shot dead on March 22 while on her way to a municipal court in the town of Saravena in the northeastern department of Arauca.

According to Asonal Judicial, 287 Colombian judicial officers have been murdered over the past 20 years, 750 have been threatened, 42 have been kidnapped, 39 are missing, 39 have been forced into exile and 31 have been forced to relocate. The association’s president, Nelson Cantillo, noted that the murders of judicial officials over the two decades averaged out to one a month.

Judge Gaona was in charge of a case in which army members are suspected of murdering a girl and two of her two brothers last October in Tame municipality in Arauca department. The girl was raped before being killed; another girl was also raped but survived. Sixty members of the army’s 5th Mobile Brigade were investigated for the crimes, which took place 254 meters from a military encampment; one of the suspects is an officer, 2nd Lt. Raúl Muñoz Linares. After several delays, the case against Muñoz was suspended on Feb. 23; it was scheduled to resume on March 31. Human rights organizations say the surviving girl’s life is in danger, since she is a key witness, and they are asking for the case to be transferred to Bogotá. Earlier in March the authorities arrested José Antonio Toroca, a Tame community leader who led protests over the crimes against the children; he was charged with “rebellion.” (Colombia Reports, March 22, March 25; Adital, Brazil, March 25)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, March 27.

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